September 4, 2012 3:18:46 PM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
Robert Triplett was found guilty of possession of child pornography in circuit court Tuesday afternoon.
The case was a "bench trial," meaning a judge decided Triplett's fate, not a jury.
With little to no deliberation, presiding Judge Lee Coleman found Triplett guilty after the one-day trial.
Triplett was sentenced as a habitual offender and received a 40-year sentence and a fine of $50,000.
During the brief trial, Coleman heard from the state's expert witness Matt Manley, who testified that Triplett had over 4,000 images of child pornography on his computer.
Throughout the trial, Triplett was constantly speaking with his attorney, Robert Laher, and at times could be heard loudly demanding Laher ask specific questions regarding computer viruses.
Triplett later took the stand and adamantly denied owning the child pornography. He consented that at one point in time he had an "extensive" collection of pornography, but maintained he thought the girls were of legal age.
In 2010, Triplett, 59, pleaded guilty to one count possession of child pornography in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. He was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
The charges he was convicted on Tuesday were state charges.
The pornography was discovered on Triplett's computer came during the course of an investigation of missing young woman Kaila Morris.
Morris, then 21, was Triplett's step-daughter. Triplett was the last known person to see her alive and reported her missing on Sept. 17, 2009.
Bonnie Morris, Kaila's mother, was vacationing in Florida at the time of her disappearance.
Triplett claimed the teen left their Golding Road home in Lowndes County with an unknown friend in a dark-colored van or sports utility vehicle. When investigators searched the home, they discovered Morris's shoes, keys, purse and cell phone still inside the home.
The search warrant allowed them to seize any and all items relating to Morris such as "articles of clothing of Kaila Morris, bed sheets, electronic devices, electronic memory devices, cell phones, DNA, hand digging and cutting tools, vehicles and utility vehicles."
Triplett has a history of sexually-based offenses with arrests in both Mississippi and Alabama.
Triplett is currently serving a 10-year sentence for an aggravated assault charge in Jackson County. He is to serve the 40-year sentence concurrently with the two 10-years sentences he already faces.
Tony Cooper of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department was the lead investigator on the case and said he is pleased with the verdict.
"The Lowndes County Sheriff's Department wants to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Columbus Police Department," Cooper said. "In a way, we hope that Bonnie (Morris) and her family can find some closure in this. We know it can't bring Kaila back but we hope it will give the family some closure. Even though this part of it is over we're still looking for Kaila."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.